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decided: August 10, 1988.


Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania dated September 12, 1986 at No. 277 C.D. 1985, reversing the opinions of the State Ethics Commission, 84-020-A and 84-020-B. 100 Pa. Commw. Ct. 494, Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Zappala, Papadakos and Stout, JJ.

Author: Nix

[ 518 Pa. Page 593]


Eileen Maunus and Felix Thau are attorneys employed by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. Ms. Maunus is an Assistant Counsel and Mr. Thau is a Deputy Chief Counsel to the Board. On May 3, 1984, both were advised that they were required to file a Statement of Financial Interest pursuant to the State Ethics Act, 65 P.S. § 401 et seq. Appellees notified the Chief Counsel to the State Ethics Commission ("Commission") on August 14, 1984, of their refusal to comply with this requirement, based on their belief that the ethical conduct of attorneys was governed solely by the Supreme Court and hence, the Ethics Act is inapplicable to them. The Chief Counsel advised appellees on October 23, 1984, that the Commission did not recognize an exception to the filing provision for attorney-employees of the Commonwealth. Appellees thereafter sought and were granted a hearing before the full Commission, which by opinion dated December 27, 1984, concluded that appellees were not exempt from the financial reporting and disclosure requirements of the Ethics Act. However, on September 12, 1986, the Commonwealth Court reversed the decision of the Commission, finding that the financial disclosure provisions of the Ethics Act are invalid as applied to publicly employed attorneys for the reason advanced by the appellees, 100 Pa. Commw. 494, 515 A.2d 83. The Commission filed a petition for allowance of appeal requesting this Court to determine whether the legislature may constitutionally

[ 518 Pa. Page 594]

    require financial disclosure of attorney-employees of state executive or legislative agencies without usurping this Court's exclusive authority to supervise the Pennsylvania courts and the legal profession within the Commonwealth. We granted the petition and now reverse.

Section 4 of the Ethics Act, 65 P.S. § 404, requires public employees, public officials and candidates for public office to file a statement of financial interests on an annual basis. Appellees concede that they are within the class of individuals declared public employees within the meaning of the Ethics Act. However, they assert that the imposition of a disclosure requirement on an attorney-employee represents an unconstitutional legislative intrusion into the exclusive authority of this Court to regulate the professional and ethical conduct of attorneys who practice before the courts of this Commonwealth.

It is clear that the legislature is precluded from exercising powers entrusted to the judiciary. Kremer v. State Ethics Commission, 503 Pa. 358, 469 A.2d 593, (1983); Commonwealth v. Sutley, 474 Pa. 256, 378 A.2d 780 (1977). The Supreme Court has been given the authority to regulate the courts by Article V, Section 10 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. This provision reads in pertinent part as follows:

(a) The Supreme Court shall exercise general supervisory and administrative authority over all the courts and justices of the peace . . .

(c) The Supreme Court shall have the power to prescribe general rules governing practice, procedure and the conduct of all courts, justices of the peace and all officers serving process or enforcing orders, judgments or decrees of any court or justice of the peace, including the power to provide for assignment and reassignment of classes of actions or classes of appeals among the several courts as the needs of justice shall require, and for admission to the bar and to practice law, and the administration of all courts and supervision of all officers of the judicial branch, if such rules are consistent with this

[ 518 Pa. Page 595]

    constitution and neither abridge, enlarge nor modify the substantive rights of any litigant, nor affect the right of the General Assembly to determine the jurisdiction of any court or justice of the peace, nor suspend nor alter any statute of limitation or repose. All laws shall be suspended to the extent that they are inconsistent with rules prescribed under these provisions.

Appellees assert that this provision eliminates any basis upon which the legislature may constitutionally regulate the professional and ethical conduct of attorneys. In this context, appellees point out that pursuant to this constitutional authority, this Court has adopted a Code of Professional Responsibility*fn1 and Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement,*fn2 both of which govern the professional and ethical conduct of attorneys admitted to practice in this Commonwealth. Appellees draw our particular attention to Pa.R.D.E. 103, which provides as follows:

The Supreme Court declares that it has inherent and exclusive power to supervise the conduct of attorneys who are its officers (which power is reasserted in Section 10(c) of Article V of the Constitution of ...

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